Google Docs Chapter 5: Images and Shapes


Section 5.1: Images with Alt Text

All images regardless of their complexity need to have an Alt text in some way. Alt Text is a brief description of your image that is 150 characters or less. This Alt Text is meant for any image that has meaning within the context of the document. Screen readers cannot read images to the reader, so Alt text acts as a substitute.

To create your Alt text for a photo,

  1. Right click your image and click Alt Text.

    A photo in Google Docs selected with a blue outline and justification menu.
  2. The Image Options panel will appear on the right side of the screen. Go to the Alt Text dropdown menu at the bottom.

  3. In the Description box, type in your alt text describing the image. If your image is only for “decorative” purposes, type “Artifact” or “Decorative” in the Description Box.

    Image Options Panel with Alt Text at the bottom. The Alt Text says The Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay.

Section 5.2: Long Descriptions

When using complex images like pie charts or bar graphs, it is better to use a long description rather than Alt Text. Alt Text is meant to be brief, while long descriptions give you a bit more freedom to explain the image. There are many ways to create a long description including:

  • Describing the complex image in text below the image.

  • Adding a link below the complex image.

  • Providing the data from the image in text form.

Make sure the long description is visible to all users. Even if they are links, or buttons.

This pie chart is missing a long description. This will be an issue to readers who cannot see at all or can see very little.

This pie chart is now accessible due to it having a link. The link will take the reader to a long description or index when clicked.

This pie chart contains a long description that tells the screen reader and reader exactly what is on the pie chart. This will make it much easier for the reader to understand the chart, and the statistics, and learn at a faster pace.

Section 5.3: Watermarks and Backgrounds

All creators should avoid using any watermarks or backgrounds that distract from the actual text or image of a document. It is best to simply not use them at all. One of the most common examples of a water mark is when a person creates a draft. Instead of using a watermark, just type up at the top, “This document is a draft”. This will make it easy for a screen reader to read the warning or information to a reader.

Section 5.4: Shapes

Shapes cannot be read by screen readers because it is considered to be floating content. Each screen reader treats shapes differently. NVDA announces the shape as “slash”, but does not read the alt text. JAWS announces the type of shape and the size, but does not read the alt text. VoiceOver automatically reads the alt text and announces that it is a shape, but not what shape. In short, there is no good way for shapes to be read yet. When creating shapes, follow these rules to make them more accessible.

Rule 1: The individual shapes may not be meaningful, but the overall drawing might be.

Rule 2: Provide Alt Text to only one of the objects.

Rule 3: Make the shape inline with the text. To do this, right click the shape, go to Wrap Text > In Line with Text.

Rule 4: It is always recommended to add Alt Text to a shape. To do this, right click the shape. Then click Edit Alt Text. In 100 characters or less, describe your shape.

Rule 5: For exporting to HTML and EPUB, take screenshots and supply alt text.

Rule 6: A user must be alerted to meaningful shapes in the document.